Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Parking charges at beauty spots

Are they excessive?

All over Scotland you will find car parks at the many rural beauty spots and recreational areas visited by tourists, day trippers and locals. Many of these car parks are run by the relevant local authority and others (especially those in the more remote areas) are owned and run by the huntin'/shootin'/fishin' estate whose land they are on.

Depending on their location these car parks can be properly-surfaced tarmac parking areas with marked-out parking bays, information signs, rubbish bins and sometimes even public toilets, or they can be a mere patch of rough ground, sometimes with a gravel surface and sometimes with nothing other than bare earth which, of course, is often wet and muddy - and no facilities whatsoever.

A rough car parking area
A rough car park in a remote location (photo by the author)
Commonly, both these types of car park share one factor - a charge is made for the privilege of using them. Now I do understand that these parking areas need maintenance and that such upkeep has a monetary cost and that the owner has a right to levy a charge for their use but what could be considered a fair charge?

''Proper'' car parks at major beauty spots (almost all of which are probably owned by local authorities) can vary widely in the amount charged for their use but this type of parking area is generally quite well maintained with good facilities and, apart from the odd muttering under their breath, most users don't object to the amount charged - provided it isn't excessive, that is!

What may surprise some people is that those car parks situated in the more remote areas of Scotland and used by those who take part in the various outdoor activities commonly followed in Scotland (such as hillwalking) also vary widely in the charges levied for their use even though most of them are privately-owned and rarely have any kind of facilities at all.

There is one car park (not a local authority-owned one) I know of (I won't name it to spare the blushes of the private estate which owns it) in a remote area which is well-used by hillwalkers and climbers. Because of the single-track roads in the area this car park is the only possible parking place and the estate is well aware of this. Accordingly, parking charges at this car park have slowly but steadily increased over the years and now sit at almost four times what they were just five years ago!

A rural car park in a remote area
Photograph by Hugh Venables CC-BY-SA 2.0
Admittedly, inflation will account for some of the increase but this car park has NO facilities whatsoever - unless you count a gravel surface as a facility - yet the charges keep on increasing

I have absolutely no objection to paying what I consider a reasonable sum for the facilities provided. Granted, this is a subjective decision - what I consider reasonable another might think extortionate - but it seems that some car park owners, be they local authorities or private landowners, have realised that these parking areas are a bit of a ''cash cow'' and have decided to take advantage of what is in effect a ''captive audience'' - the outdoor enthusiasts of Scotland.

As someone who does much of his hillwalking alone and in remote areas a car is the only reasonable way for me to travel. Public transport in the remoter areas of Scotland is poor (and that's putting it politely). Some bus services in remote areas only run every second Tuesday in months with an 'R' in them - or to some other equally silly (and useless) timetable!

The best option is to bribe, plead with, cajole or otherwise coerce friends or family to provide transport but not too many are willing to drive 3-4 hours each way just so I can get my long weekend in the hills. Guess I'll just have to bit the bullet and dig ever deeper into my pocket and pay the parking charge!



  1. Sorry about all the high cost of traveling. Is there a way you can get together with a few other like minded people traveling the same place in order to split the fees?

    1. That is certainly possible for some but speaking for myself I'm as anti-social as they come when hillwalking - I go myself or occasionally with my Wingman!

  2. Extortionate is the word that comes to mind. My late father in law was dead set against that kind of charge and he has been dead for over 30 years. He would park a mile away to avoid the fees but you cannot do that if you are only a single track road.

    1. It's getting beyond a joke. Some of these estate car parks actually have parking meters and an (presumably) estate worker who checks them! It isn't all bad though. One farmer I know near Bridge of Orchy has cleared, levelled and surfaced (with gravel) a large FREE parking area specifically for hillwalkers but that is unusual.